Kia is one of many automakers bringing a fleet of concept cars to the 2016 SEMA show in Las Vegas. But one thing makes the Korean firm’s quartet of concept vehicles a bit different.
The Kia concepts are all versions of current production models, but reimagined as self-driving cars. Each was designed for what Kia calls “The Autonomous Life,” where self-driving cars become an extension of their owners’ lifestyles. They’re built around the assumption that autonomous driving will free up time for other things.
Things like watching television, for example. The Soul First Class is a Kia Soul with an interior that’s been reoriented around autonomous driving. There’s no steering wheel, and the front seats face rearward, allowing occupants to converse and watch a 40-inch Samsung TV. A custom center console includes two tablets for controlling vehicle functions. Kia believes this is the perfect setup for urban businesspeople.
While the Soul First Class is focused on the city, the Sorento Ski Gondola is all about the outdoors. As the name implies, it’s basically an autonomous bus for taking skiers up and down mountains. The interior is waterproofed to deal with ski gear, and the Sorento rides on a set Dominator Rubber Tracks, a feature that makes this the coolest Kia Sorento ever.
For the third SEMA concept, Kia partnered with School of Rock to turn a Sedona minivan into a mobile recording studio, complete with digital mixing board, boom mike, near-field speakers, and acoustic paneling. Kia also turned its new Niro hybrid into the ultimate vehicle for a triathlete. Called the Niro Triathlon, it features a small pickup bed and other nooks for storing gear, plus a Human Touch ergonomic reclining chair for the athlete.
Like many other automakers, Kia is actually experimenting with self-driving cars. Earlier this year, it launched “Drive Wise,” a new sub-brand focused on autonomous-driving tech. The company has said it plans to launched partially autonomous cars by 2020, and fully autonomous cars by 2030. We’ll see if any of those future self-driving cars resemble any of these wild concepts.